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Facebook addiction and ‘disconnect anxiety’ among college students

Author says college students' obsessive Facebook use can go unchecked for years, unlike other addictions

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Rampant Facebook use has led to privacy desensitization.

We rarely put ourselves in the position, but if and when we are not able to connect online, 68 percent of us experience disconnect anxiety, and college students are particularly at risk.

Staying connected on Facebook seems to be of particular import, as that’s the first thing 48 percent of us do upon waking each morning.

Most of us never see the extent to which disconnect anxiety can go, but we are seeing it more and more at The Center for Counseling and Health Resources.

Treatment of disconnect anxiety includes taking patients’ connectivity devices and locking them up in a safe. Patients exhibit symptoms not unlike withdrawal from other addictions, such as trembling, sweating, and trouble breathing, as their minds and, in turn, their bodies panic at the reality of their worst fears realized – disconnection.

College students, according to research, are among the most susceptible to disconnect anxiety.

When living at home, teenagers likley have some limits on their internet use, as parents increasingly recognize the negative impact of technology. The constant compulsion to stay connected to their friends – via texting and Facebook in particular – distracts teenagers from real relationships with family and friends, as well as other offline activities essential to balanced living. Most parents can and should take necessary steps to circumvent this.

But when they move away to college, teenagers are off to the races! With no parents there monitoring their internet use, college students’ only limitations are those they set for themselves.

In my book #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology, and Social Networking, I touch on a number of reasons why the compulsion and “need” to stay connected is a dangerous one. For college students addicted to Facebook, the following factors seem particularly relevant:

1) The stress factor. College students are expert multi-taskers. They have to be. Between the demands of their studies and the expectations on their social lives, there’s always something more to do and somewhere else to be. So the stress factor is a given – that constant need to “show up,” as it were (i.e., succeed). Factoring into that the need to “show up” on Facebook only compounds stress.

They not only have to live up to the expectations of teachers, parents, and real-world friends, but their Facebook friends too, who have come to expect their witty posts and insightful comments, not just now and then but all day long!

2) Looking for the next hit. Historically, it’s alcohol and drugs that have concerned parents of teenagers going off to college. Granted, alcohol and drug addiction continue to be real, serious threats to our young people, as these types of recreational behavior are considered by many to be “normal” college behavior.

However, looking for the next “hit” on Facebook is universally accepted.

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2 Responses to Facebook addiction and ‘disconnect anxiety’ among college students

  1. brownpf@lahc.edu

    June 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I have three nieces who are college students, actually one just graduated with two degrees. Although there are legitimate reasons for concern, I see them not only interacting online, but having extensive, healthy peer interactions as well. Social media is how they are showing family and friends what they are doing in college, from posting their participation in events and presentations, to interacting with friends, to showing project scores and grades.

    I believe that as adults we tend to over think the effects of technology on students. Most of them are intelligent enough to figure out how to draw the lines. It is therefore up to parents to learn about these technologies and teach their children through the many resources available.

    I, myself am constantly on Facebook and am teaching those around me (family and friends)how to use this as a social tool of expression and education. I teach online and use a Facebook group for reading and study skills.

  2. philosophy4life

    June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    “Author says college students’ obsessive Facebook use can go unchecked for years, unlike other addictions.”

    Apparently, the author does not know the difference between addiction and habituation(see below). It is this kind of psycho-babble that creates a justification for an inability to take responsibility for one’s actions and choices. Pity the poor student, so much pressure and responsibility.

    Specific: DSM-IV Definition of Addiction- A maladaptive pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period: (1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect. b. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance. (2) Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: a. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance b. The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. (3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended (loss of control).(4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use (loss of control). (5) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects (preoccupation). (6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use (continuation despite adverse consequences). (7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (adverse consequences).

    Addiction (psychoactive substance dependence) is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over the consumption of psychoactive substances, preoccupation with psychoactive substances, use of psychoactive substances despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

    Habituation:
    A condition characterized by a psychological craving for the effects produced by the administration of a drug.
    The Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs of the World Health Organization defines habituation (1957) as: “…a condition resulting from the repeated consumption of a drug. Its characteristics include: (1) a desire (but not compulsion) to continue taking the drug for the sense of improved well-being which it engenders; (2) little or no tendency to increase the dose; (3) some degree of psychic dependence on the effect of drug; but absence of physical dependence and hence of the abstinency syndrome; (4) detrimental effects, if any, primarily on the individual.” (See Seevers, M.H., J.A.M.A. 181:92, 1962.)

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